Ember RV, with Familiar Name Backing it, Officially Launches

By: Rick Kessler | Published on: Aug 17, 2021

Ashley Bontrager president and CEO of Ember Recreational Vehicles
Ashley Bontrager, president and CEO of Ember Recreational Vehicles, stands inside the company’s new 90,000-square-foot production facility.

With a press release issued today (Aug. 17) by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC), Ember Recreational Vehicles, a new RV manufacturer backed by a partnership that includes Ashley Bontrager and several other industry professionals, officially emerges from its quiet startup phase and into the public realm.

Ember, which was founded earlier this year, plans to invest $4 million to build an 87,750-square-foot building on 15 acres in Bristol Commerce Park at 1728 Commerce Drive, according to the IEDC release. The manufacturing facility will be equipped with new lamination machines and welding equipment. Construction is expected to be completed by September 2021 with production starting soon after.

The company, which currently operates out of 18,000 square feet of warehouse, production and office space in Bristol, has grown to 23 employees over the last few months as it’s started the prototype process, plans to scale its workforce up to 150 positions by the end of 2023. The company is now hiring in Bristol for RV production, service, engineering, accounting and administration positions. Information on open positions will be available online.

“Northern Indiana, specifically Elkhart County, has earned its title as the ‘RV Capital of the World’ honestly,” Bontrager stated in the release. “The craftsmanship, dedication and work ethic of the local workforce has proven, over decades, to be unmatched. I, along with Ember’s three other founding partners, Chris Barth, Steve Delagrange and Ernie Miller, knew starting our company in Northern Indiana would provide a solid foundation for a successful future. We strongly felt to build a better RV, we need to build a better RV company first. We’re excited to bring a fresh approach to the RV Industry and where better to do it than Indiana?”

In addition to Bontrager, who serves as the company president and CEO, the founding partnership includes Vice President and COO Chris Barth as well as Operations Directors Ernie Miller and Steve Delagrange.

In an interview in late July with RVBusiness, Bontrager & Co. discussed plans for the company, saying that they expect production to begin in October for the new towable unit in their Overland Series. Barth described the unit as “conventional-plus,” meaning it will appeal to, as he put it, “discerning buyers.” While most details were being kept under wraps, he did reveal that the unit will be a lightweight laminated towable appropriately outfitted for off-road, off-grid adventures.

“There are some brands out there that are doing a great job, but we hear from dealers and consumers that they want more,” Barth said. “And the changing expectations of the customer are something that we’ve talked a lot about. ‘Can we do better? Are we able to do a little bit better than this?’ And it ended up being something that went into our company philosophy when we start talking about being able to do better.”

Indeed, Bontrager told RVBusiness that while product is important, early on the group realized they wanted to do more than just be another RV manufacturer churning out product.

“Some of our initial discussions started with talking about building RVs, but as we got into it more, we realized that what we really wanted to do was build an RV company that would do things a little better, in our opinion,” she said. “And we got excited about the idea that we’re building a great company, that also builds RVs.”

“So, we dug into our mission and vision and philosophy,” she continued. “That’s where we all started to get excited. We all love RVs. Ernie and Steve love the operation side and Chris and I love the sales and marketing side of it. But we really just wanted to build a great RV company.”

All of which begs the question: What makes Ember a great RV company?

To answer this, Bontrager talked about her long-held desire to run a company, suggesting she likely picked up her entrepreneurial spirit from her family; her grandparents, Lloyd and Bertha Bontrager who founded Jayco, a company where her father, Derald, along with her uncle Wilbur, carried on the family legacy for many years.

“I always knew that I wanted to lead a company that I would want to work for, that I would want to do business with, and that I would want to buy from. From where I sit, that’s what’s guiding everything that I’m doing. Any decision that we’re making, anything that comes across my desk, it has to fit into one of those three things or I’m not going to do it.”

Select dealers will have an opportunity to review Ember’s new product lineup, as well as the company itself, via invitation-only meetings held during the Elkhart RV Open House. For more information or dealer inquiries, visit the company website at www.EmberRV.com.

The IEDC offered Ember Recreational Vehicles Inc. up to $1 million in conditional tax credits based on the company’s plans to create up to 150 jobs by the end of 2023, according to the release, and up to $100,000 in conditional tax credits from the Hoosier Business Investment tax credit based on the company’s planned capital investment in Indiana. These credits are performance-based, meaning the company is eligible to claim incentives once Hoosiers are hired and investments are made. The Economic Development Corporation of Elkhart County is considering additional incentives.

“Hoosiers are innovators, launching businesses that are developing new solutions for today’s challenges affecting industries Indiana is known for across the nation,” stated Jim Staton, IEDC SVP and chief business development officer. “Ember Recreational Vehicles is a prime example of one of those companies, finding success with the support of a strong entrepreneurial culture and a business climate that keeps taxes, expenses and regulations low while providing talent and growth opportunities.”

“Ember RV will be designing and building innovative, lightweight trailers and will be the first woman-led RV manufacturing company in Bristol,” said Bristol Town Manager Mike Yoder. “We are very excited and pleased that Ember RV has chosen Bristol to construct their manufacturing facility.”

Source: https://rvbusiness.com/with-a-familiar-name-backing-it-ember-rv-officially-launches/

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Indiana Colleges & Universities Ranked Among Best

INDIANAPOLIS – Butler University has been named the top regional university in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report.  This is the third straight year the Indianapolis school has been ranked number one in the category of the publication’s annual ranking of 389 universities and colleges.

“These rankings reflect the ongoing excellence of our academic programs and exceptional student experience,” said Butler President James Danko. “As we continue to pursue our goal of expanding student access and success through the Butler Beyond strategic direction, we are committed to extending this valuable, quality education to a broader set of learners for the good of our community.”

The publication’s annual report ranks institutions in a variety of categories, such as national universities, regional universities, regional colleges, and assorted subcategories. The state of Indiana is represented in many of those fields.

In terms of national universities, the University of Notre Dame finished the highest among institutions in the state, coming in at No. 19. Purdue University comes in at No. 53, Indiana University-Bloomington is No. 76.

In addition to Butler’s No. 1 ranking among Midwest universities, the University of Evansville comes in No. 4. The region covers 12 states that stretches from South Dakota to Kansas and from Nebraska to Ohio.

Among Midwestern colleges, the U.S. News survey places Taylor University in Upland at No. 2. The school said it is the 24th consecutive year for Taylor to be ranked in the top three positions.

Goshen College comes in at No. 7 in the list of best regional Midwest colleges.

Click here to view the list.

Monday, September 14th 2020, 10:46 AM EDTUpdated: Monday, September 14th 2020, 12:39 PM EDT
By Wes Mills, Content Manager

Source: https://www.insideindianabusiness.com/story/42625066/indiana-colleges-and-universities-ranked-among-best

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Iechyd Da Brewing Company of Elkhart Wins Best Seasonal Beer in Indiana’s Cool North

Terry Mark, Elkhart County Convention and Visitors Bureau — November 5, 2019

Congratulations to the Breakfast Cookies Milk Stout made by Iechyd Da Brewing Company, which topped 12 other tasty contenders from around northern Indiana in voting for Best Seasonal Beer in Indiana’s Cool North Beer Wars.

With thousands of votes cast over 10 days, Elkhart’s Iechyd Da came out on top of two other Elkhart County breweries, Wedgewood Brewing Company of Middlebury’s Pumpkin Guts and Ruhe 152 of Nappanee’s Draper, and 10 others from St. Joseph, LaPorte and Porter counties.

The Beer Wars promotion was the latest iteration of Indiana’s Cool North Food Wars competitions. 

“Food Wars promotions like this allow our local businesses to show off,” said Robby Bearss, marketing manager for the Northern Indiana Tourism Development Commission. “It is important to shine a spotlight on local businesses to remind the community how great of an asset they are to area and why they help make our region so cool.” 

Indiana’s Cool North is a joint initiative of NITDC and its members in the region. NITDC’s goal is to promote tourism and drive business to locally owned businesses.

The Elkhart County Convention & Visitors Bureau is a member of NITDC and is the official tourism advertising/marketing and public/community relations organization for the Elkhart County hospitality industry. The ECCVB advances quality-of-place initiatives in our downtowns and rural spaces, parks and natural environment, arts and culture, and events, festivals, groups and activities that help forge social connections.

For more information about Beer Wars, contact Robby Bearss of NITDC at 574-238-3748.

For more information about Elkhart County tourism, contact Terry T. Mark, director of communications of the Elkhart County Convention and Visitors Bureau, at 574-262-8161 or terry@eccvb.org.

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Ivy Tech Awarded Veterans Grant

By Reed Parker, Writer/Reporter | October 30, 2019

INDIANAPOLIS – Ivy Tech Community College is one of two recipients of grants to support a program aimed at helping veterans. Ivy Tech received $1.5 million for the Veterans Accelerated Learning for Licensed Occupations (VALLO) project. Ivy Tech was one of two schools awarded under the program, which is fully funded by the U.S. Department of Labor. 

The grant will allow Ivy Tech to partner with the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency, Conexus Indiana, Techpoint, and others to help speed up the process for transitioning veterans into licensed work. Ivy Tech will administer collaboration between each partner to find gaps between military training and civilian jobs, develop education pathways, create training programs and develop a multi-state system to transfer credentials. 

“The funding provided by DOL will allow Ivy Tech and our partners to continue to address the workforce needs in our state,” said Vice President for Advanced Manufacturing, Engineering and Applied Science Sue Smith. “Ivy Tech is committed to providing education and training opportunities to veterans and transitioning service members to not only aid their efforts in joining the civilian workforce, but also to meet the employer demand for a skilled workforce.”

More information about the grants can be found here

Source: http://www.insideindianabusiness.com/story/41249207/ivy-tech-awarded-veterans-grant

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Robotics training lab coming to Ivy Tech in Elkhart County

By Tiffany Salameh | September 17, 2019

GOSHEN, Ind. – Robotics in the workforce is becoming more commonplace. That’s why Ivy Tech in Elkhart is going to start training their students to work hands on with automation with the help of a $1.47 million contribution from the county council.

The money is going towards an entire “iFlex” robotics lab which will streamline the process for students between class and the workforce.

“it’s going to go towards two things really building a facility and making sure that we have the appropriate infrastructure, equipment, that we need to train students,” Natalie Medich said, the Advanced Manufacturing, Robotic and Industrial Tech Chair at Ivy Tech. “It’s actually very vital. Our businesses are moving towards automation for our manufacturing facilities.

Factories like Thor Motors and Lippert Components are already using some robots similar to the ones at Ivy Tech College right now.

Back in 2015, the Brookings Institute ranked Elkhart County #1 in the nation for robots per 1,000 workers. Medich said that with the new lab workforces in Elkhart are likely just going to keep growing with automated technology.

“That type of training is rare here in Elkhart County,” Medich said.

Ivy Tech student and robotics lab tech Paul Troxel said the new facility is both exciting and necessary. On top of his class load, Troxel also works fulltime at Lippert Components, working with robots.

 “It’s going to be everywhere, I already know the plant across the street have got two full size robots they’re going automated with,  we have a couple of more plants with automation cells in them and I know there’s just more coming,” Troxel said.

Despite common misconception, Medich said automation does not always take away jobs. In manufacturing, it brings better and higher paying jobs. A heavily automated start-up company called Brinco just announced plans to bring 250 jobs to Bristol by 2021.

Both Medich and Troxel agree that automation is nothing to be scared of but rather welcomed.

“Just embrace the change. This is the way it’s going to be,” Troxel said.

The new robotics facility is scheduled to break ground in summer of 2020.  

Source: https://www.abc57.com/news/robotics-training-lab-coming-to-ivy-tech-in-elkhart-county

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RV Technical Institute Officially Opens in Elkhart

By Merritt McLaughlin, Writer/Reporter | September 23, 2019

ELKHART – The RV Technical Institute has officially opened in Elkhart. The new 18,000-square-foot facility features seven classrooms and aims to directly address the shortage of RV technicians while improving consumer experience. 

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Executive Director of the RVTI Curt Hemmeler says the institute has big plans to address the shortage on a statewide and national level. 

The nonprofit institute was funded by collection of $10 million from the RV industry.

Hemmeler says the industry has about a 20-25 percent shortage statewide for RV technicians. The institute offers training to individuals who would fill that gap and upon completion, be stationed in a dealership or as a mobile tech almost immediately. He says more trained technicians will reduce the time it takes to repair the recreational vehicles and thus improve the consumer experience. 

However, the initiative doesn’t stop with the Elkhart facility. The RVTI is set up as the “central hub,” as it is in close range of suppliers and manufacturers in Michiana, however Hemmeler says the institute has licensed partners that will teach its curriculum nationwide. 

“Of course, you can always come here in Elkhart to train, but we’ve also created the curriculum in a learning management system that allows us to distribute the education across the country. Though it will always be an option to train in Elkhart at the physical facility here, we will have licensed partners across the country who will also be teaching our curriculum and educating folks in the industry with our curriculum. Places such as other dealerships, community colleges, we recently signed an agreement with Camping World, who will be training their employees with our curriculum.”

Hemmeler said RVTI has even partnered with a correctional facility to train non-felon female inmates to become RV technicians on location. 

The RVTI had its official first day of classes and held a grand opening ceremony Monday.

Hemmeler says the institute will launch curriculum nationwide.

Source: http://www.insideindianabusiness.com/story/41087801/rvti-officially-opens-in-elkhart

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Getting the Word Out About Manufacturing & Logistics

By J. Mark Howell, President and Chief Executive Officer, Conexus Indiana | September 20, 2019

As the epicenter of the nation’s advanced manufacturing and logistics industries, Indiana has a compelling story to tell about how Hoosier companies make and move the goods people depend on every day.

Our goal is to ensure everyone hears these stories – many of which share a common theme focused on cutting-edge technologies that are transforming the way products are made and moved around the world and the people who use them.

Conexus Indiana launched an educational series earlier this year to bring these stories to young adults around the state. Through our Movers, Makers & Mixers events we have stimulated lively discussions about advanced manufacturing and logistics in the 21st Century and dispelled myths about the industries.

Indiana’s leadership position in the advanced manufacturing and logistics industries is evident in the numbers. One in five Hoosiers works in these industries and Indiana leads the nation in manufacturing job growth while offering competitive salaries upwards of $77,500 in the manufacturing sector and $65,000 in logistics.

Perceptions about careers in advanced manufacturing and logistics, however, aren’t as impressive.

Our research shows that most Hoosiers are unfamiliar with the advanced manufacturing and logistics industries and as a result have negative or outdated perceptions of careers in these industry sectors. Our research also shows that most people don’t know these industries offer meaningful, good-paying careers with benefits and opportunities to grow and make an impact.

Those familiar with the industries, however, are more likely to have positive perceptions of the industry. Educators have confirmed that once students are exposed to manufacturing and logistics and learn about the innovative and high-tech technologies used to make and move products, the more likely they are to be excited about pursuing a career in these industry sectors.

Movers, Makers & Mixers is one of many talent programs Conexus Indiana developed and delivers to change perceptions and engage more people in the industry.

Industry trailblazers and thought leaders have helped us share stories about the impact of technologies, such as 3D printing, Internet of Things, additive manufacturing, block chain, augmented and virtual reality and big data, on the industries’ competitiveness, productivity and profitability. We’ve reached hundreds of young adults this year and will continue our tour throughout 2020.

The Movers, Makers & Mixers events underscore the benefits of storytelling and verify effective ways to impact perceptions. Specifically, we’ve learned:

The data are accurate; the more people know about the industries, the greater interest they show in pursuing careers in those industries. Industry partners from Cummins, ClearObject, and Cook Regentec energized young adults and stretched their imaginations when talking about what it means to be a manufacturer, the migration of technology into these industries and how it is redefining manufacturing and logistics.

It’s never too early or too late to share stories about the advanced manufacturing and logistics industries. Our Movers, Makers & Mixers events are geared toward young adults, but we also offer programs to students in high school and college, as well as working adults. Central to our programs are opportunities for students to interact with industry experts and visit manufacturing and logistics operations.  

We need to be relentless in telling our industries’ stories. We’ve got so many stories to tell and so many incredible people who want to help us spread the word.

Our work reaches across the state in high school classrooms, on college campuses, in manufacturing and logistics facilities, at large events and, in the case of Movers, Makers & Mixers, in local breweries and restaurants.

Movers, Makers & Mixers has made five stops around the state with three more events planned later this year in South Bend and Terre Haute in September and Evansville in November. You can register to attend our events by clicking here.

Our stories are only going to get more interesting as the industries evolve. It’s a great time to be a storyteller – and to be a mover or maker.

J. Mark Howell is the chief executive officer of Conexus Indiana.

Source: http://www.insideindianabusiness.com/story/41074556/getting-the-word-out-about-manufacturing-logistics

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Keystone RV Celebrates Milestone

By Merritt McLaughlin, Writer/Reporter | August 30, 2019

GOSHEN – A Goshen-based recreational vehicle manufacturer has hit a major milestone. Keystone RV Co. has officially shipped its one millionth RV, to be delivered and sold at Walnut Ridge Family RV Center in New Castle.

A ceremony to commemorate the sale was held with employees and partners this week. A ribbon cutting ceremony also sent off the 2020 Keystone Montana 3761FL, driven away by a 2020 Sierra 2500 HD Denali.

“We can’t understate how honored we are to have had the support of hundreds of dealers, thousands of employees, and soon to be one million Keystone RV owners over the past twenty-three years,” said Jeff Runels, chief executive officer and president of the company in a news release.

Keystone RV Co. was officially founded in 1996. 

Source: http://www.insideindianabusiness.com/story/40985916/keystone-rv-co-celebrates-milestone

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Become a better leader – Listen!

Listening — it seems so simple. Yet, it’s estimated that the average person ignores, forgets, or misunderstands at least 75% of what he or she hears. Is it any wonder that mistakes occur, opportunities are missed, or that the “I’ll take care of it!” never happens?

Have you ever caught yourself saying “I know I’m forgetting something”? Does your family ever say “would you just listen to me”? Is building a better business environment and strengthening family relationships top on your priority list? If you have answered YES to any of these questions, this workshop is for YOU!

The Pfeil Innovation Center, sponsored by Beacon Health System, is proud to present the one-day LISTENING PAYS® workshop on November 20th  and December 2nd.  More details >>

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Environmental & Safety Conference

Stay ahead of regulatory changes at the Environmental & Safety Conference on Wednesday, November 4th from 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.  Conference location is the Lerner Theatre, 410 South Main Street, downtown Elkhart. Download registration document or click here to register.

Conference topics will include:

  • OSHA recordkeeping and ways to save on insurance
  • Hearing loss prevention
  • Asbestos, silica and chromium
  • Soil remediation
  • Waters of the United States
  • Problem-solving with environmental audits
  • Planning annual environmental calendar
  • Hazardous waste determination
  • NESHAP/MACT/GACT Hot topics
  • Impact of proposed ozone standard
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